Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tornado and Candy House in a Matchbook


I was fortunate recently to publish a poem in a magazine called Matchbook. This magazine's title is truth in advertising to the max. Each copy of each issue of Matchbook literally appears as — is bound in — a vintage matchbook. My two contributor's copies of the issue with my poem have for their covers two matchbooks, one telling us to visit Lyman's Country Shop in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the other advertising the "proved safety, earnings, and availability of savings" at the Des Moines Savings and Loan. Old-timey matchbooks that look like they're from the 1960s, maybe even the 1950s or older. S&Ls started up during the Depression, didn't they? Early 1930s, I believe.

Matchbook magazine is the brainchild of poet Friedrich Kerksieck, founder of Small Fires Press. This small press (see Friedrich's clever pun in the press name?) publishes, along with Matchbook, poetry chapbooks and broadsides printed on a letterpress, an almighty Vandercook Press and Photopolymer Plate Maker. Not only is Friedrich the CEO, editor,and publisher, he is also the designer, proofreader, copyeditor, fact-checker, pressman, binder, salesperson, webmaster, troubleshooter, and sweeper-upper.

When I think about Friedrich driving that letterpress, I imagine him as a helmsman manhandling a frigate through a monsoon on the high seas . . . all the while also having to be the Captain, First Mate, Quartermaster, ship's doctor, cabin boy, cook, all sailors before the mast, and also any and all mutineers! Oops. Sorry about that romanticized, even sentimental moment. I loved pirate novels as a child (and maybe still!).

Anyway, about once a year or so (sometimes less often), Friedrich entertains submissions to Matchbook. Because of the actual size of matchbooks, length requirements are pretty stringent. Small Fire Press's submission guidelines specify that poems must be no longer than 24 lines that are no longer than 22 characters (including spaces). Prose can be as many as 48 lines. Artwork must be reproducible in black and white in a square space that's 1.25" X 1.25" . . . whew. The current issue — volume 3, published in 2011 — contains both poems and illustrations. Quite a feat of editing and publishing. Watch for Friedrich's next call for submissions, probably in 2012 . . . before the Mayan end of the world, let's hope.

At the right is a photo of one of my poem's pages in Matchbook and also the title page in another matchbook (kind of a blurry shot . . . sorry). I really should invest in a good macro lens.

Below is the poem itself, which focuses on a traumatic event that happened in nearby Parkersburg, Iowa: an F5 tornado in May 2008 that battered the town and the surrounding area, damaging over 400 homes and buildings. I dedicate this appearance of the poem to the many people who were injured. And also to the eight who died that day . . . may they rest in peace.

Confetti
Parkersburg,
Iowa, 2008

The twister tears off
the Andressens' first
floor, the basement

ceiling. Just below,
a toddler screaming.
Skinny legs pointed

up at the dull flank
of the tornado. Dad’s
hands clamped, vise

grips on her wrists,
his legs gnarled
around a newel post.

Then the wind whirls
somewhere else, tiny
Jennie forgotten.

Her skirt flops like
a lofted tablecloth.
Wisps of paper

and plastic drift
from acetylene sky
onto a concrete floor.

Vince Gotera, first appeared in Matchbook III, 2011.
I'd like to show you another poem from Matchbook III, "The House Is Made of Candy" by Jasmine Dreame Wagner — poet, fiction writer, artist (photography, drawing, collage, books), musician (singer-songwriter, drums, guitar, piano, you-name-it) and ______fill in the blank . . . I bet she does it!

I first met Jasmine when she submitted "Paradelle for a Girl in a Coma" to the North American Review. I was delighted and honored to publish it. The paradelle is a notoriously difficult poetic form, invented in 1997 by former poet laureate Billy Collins as a joke: a form that would be close to impossible (so damn hard no one would ever try). A comment on and a parody of the enterprise of writing poetry in closed forms. Well, joke or no joke, since then quite a few poets have written successful paradelles, undaunted by the form's recalcitrance and complexity, and one of the most accomplished of these adventuresome souls is Ms. Wagner.

Okay, here is Jasmine's Matchbook poem. Enjoy!

The House Is Made of Candy


The house
is made of candy,
and it might be raining.

The ceiling
leak, its caramel
intricacies.

I am gliding
through its corridors.
Goodbye,

goodbye.
I am through
with smiling

at you as though
you'd just gotten off
an airplane.

Jasmine Dreame Wagner, from Matchbook III, 2011.
To find out more about Jasmine and her many endeavors and escapades, check out her websites: her personal one, titled songs about ghosts; her music project, Cabinet of Natural Curiosities; her psychedelic garage rock band, Son Cats; her entrepeneurial "mini-empire" (as she jokingly puts it), For Arbors / For Satellites. Google jasmine dreame wagner . . . there are many more sites to explore. Quite an adventure just finding out about Jasmine!

As you know, I frequently talk about poetic craft in the blog as well. Maybe something really small here: in "Confetti" I worked hard at using sharp and quickly registered images, for example, the closing "Wisps of paper // and plastic drift / from acetylene sky / onto a concrete floor" (mad props there to Hart Crane). Notice too, in Jasmine's poem, her delicious image "caramel / intricacies," focusing on both taste and color (too often imagery in contemporary writing refers only to sight). Okay, lesson over, 'nuff said.

Go write a poem. It's National Poetry Month! Need a nudge to begin? Check out Robert Lee Brewer's blog Poetic Asides: each day during National Poetry Month, he provides a prompt, an "assignment" sorta . . . 30 days, 30 poems. Today, April 3, Robert says, "write a poem in which you imagine the world without you." Ready, set, go!
HASTA BLOGEESTA, BABY!

P.S. If you feel like trying to write a paradelle, start by looking at the first one by Billy Collins. Ron Kowit has put online a small anthology of successful paradelles. Another notable example is "A Paradelle for Donald Rumsfeld" by Ronald Wallace; this poem shows how the paradelle can lend itself to quite serious subjects. Good luck!



1 comment:

Jasmine Dreame Wagner said...

Hey Vince!

Thank you so much for this wonderful post. I especially like how you've described Friedrich Kerksieck as "a helmsman manhandling a frigate through a monsoon on the high seas . . . all the while also having to be the Captain, First Mate, Quartermaster, ship's doctor, cabin boy, cook, all sailors before the mast, and also any and all mutineers!"

So true. Small Fires Press crafts such beautiful handmade volumes, it's inspiring to witness (and be a small part of) such an incredible venture.

Also, your poem is wonderful, and I'm so excited that our pieces sit so well alongside each other. I learned so much from you about line breaks and image and hope to pass on at least some of that knowledge to my students.

Awesome!!

I'm going to repost this.

Best,
-Jasmine

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